The Best Place To Take A Photo Of Kyoto? I Agree! 

I read in an article that this is one of the best places to take a photo of Kyoto (http://en.rocketnews24.com/2017/03/08/the-most-beautiful-photo-of-kyoto-ever-taken-internet-swoons-over-picture-of-traditional-city/).

I went there to see what all the fuss was about.  It turns out that this photo was taken from a slope in one of the bustling roads to Yasaka Pagoda coming from Kiyomizu dera.  Once you are about to hit a slope downwards, Yasaka Pagoda unravels in such a magnificent way.  It is also hard to miss as hordes of photographers set up shop here.  If you are walking by and happen to not see anyone, better snag a photie while you can. 

I took one for myself during a lazy afternoon:

The Beginner’s Guide To Climbing Mt. Fuji

Mountain Day here in Japan is in 2 days (Aug.11) and people are gearing up for the hike ahead.

My friends and I decided to go earlier in August to avoid the massive crowds that climb Japan’s many mountains.  Another reason was that we decided to climb Mt. Fuji, the highest mountain in Japan.  Some 300,000 people climb every year and the most dense months are during the climbing season (July 1- September 10 for Yoshida; July 10 – September 10 for the other trails).

First off, some quick stats about Mt. Fuji.  You have to know what you are climbing!

  • Mt. Fuji is a dormant volcano with its highest peak  at 3,776 m.
  • Mt. Fuji can be accessed from 2 prefectures: Yamashina and Shizuoka.
  • There are 4 trails in Mt. Fuji (in no order): Yoshida (most popular), Subashiri, Gotemba, Fujinomiya.

Second, the equipment I had:

  • 2 base layers, 1 heat-tech layer, 1 insulated windproof jacket
  • 1 pair of heat-tech leggings, 1 pair of fleece-lined joggers, 1 pair of knee-high socks
  • 1 pair of Adidas AX2 Hiking Shoes (trust me, you would want to invest in some good hiking shoes; wearing sneakers is fine if you’re okay with slipping and dealing with rocks in your shoes)
  • headlamp (you will also really need this)
  • sunglasses, cap, handkerchief to shield from dust (neck and foot gaiters also if you can)
  • 3L of drinks (wish I had more), a huge bag of peanuts and cookies
  • sunblock, cooling wet wipes (the descent will be very hot)

I will post our annotated itinerary here and what we did to get to the top.  We all hike for fun and do not regard ourselves as pros.  The trail we took is Yoshida. Hope you guys can pick up a few tips from this post!

July 30:

14: 45Bus to Fuji Subaru 5th Station from Kawaguchiko station (55 mins; 2100 yen roundtrip)

  • Better buy roundtrip tickets from Kawaguchiko station to avoid queueing on the way back

15:40 – Arrived at Fuji Subaru 5th Station

15:40-16:45 – Checked out stores and bought all food and drinks for the hike (everything is marked up 30% from retail)

  • Everything is still priced OK here so I suggest buying as much as you think you need for the hike
  • The comfort rooms here are good (and free) as well compared to the ones going up.  if you can, do everything here.  You’ll never regret it.

16:45 – 19:30 – Arrived at Fujisan 7th Station and booked a hut for 3 hours (5,400 yen)

  • The hike at this stage was relatively easy and could be done faster if you’re fit enough
  • For beginners, I suggest for you to book huts so that you can get some rest.  During the day, it costs 1,100/hr.  At night, it costs around 1,800 yen/hr.  you can try haggling if you know some Japanese.  The last huts are located 2 hours up at stations 8-9.  However, these get booked the earliest.
  • All comfort rooms going up will set you back 200 yen/use.  Do not expect motorized toilet seats and other pleasantries.

August 1:

20:30 – 4:00 – Resumed the ascent to the peak and waited for Goraiko (sunrise)

  • At this point, most of us exhausted our drinking supplies and had to buy.  Everything is marked up by at least 150%.  Coffee and Coke will cost you 500-700 yen.  A hot cup of instant noodles will cost you 700 yen.  Cash is king!
  • As you approach the peak, the pace will be significantly slower since people tend to take a lot of pictures.  Be patient.

4:00 – 8:00 – Watched Goraiko and went around the crater

  • It was around 2 degrees Celsius at the peak.  Good to wear your warm stuff once nighttime arrives.
  • Assuming you arrive there in time, Goraiko will take around 30 minutes total.

8:00 – 12:00 – Descent to Fuji Subaru 5th station

  • Make sure you at least have a handkerchief and sunglasses to cover your eyes, face, and neck.  The descent seems easy but the slope is quite steep and it is very dusty!
  • Expect to land on your butt going down.  Make sure to cover your lower extremeties to prevent injuries.
  • Bring lots of water! It will be very hot on the way down (if you did our itinerary) and they don’t sell anything during the descent as well (which I thought was cruel).

12:15 – 13 – Bus to Kawaguchiko station

That’s pretty much it for the climb.  Prior to the climb, we visited Churreito Pagoda which is the perfect place to capture Fuji from afar.  It is also where most of the postcards about Japan are shot.  We highly-recommend visiting this once before the climb.

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The team! Missing one ’cause she was taking the photo.

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It really looks like a painting from afar.  We also could not believe that we were to scale up that thing in a couple of hours!

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Told you it was like one of those postcards.

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From the other side of Kawaguchi (which is one of the five lakes which surround the mountain).  It is also home to vast fields of flowers (including lavender!).  Yes, it smells as good as it looks.

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The men striking a pose.

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I had to!

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The complete team at Fuji 6th station!

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You could literally the sun rising from the horizon.  It was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen in my life.

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The entire slope during the last 50m to the peak was filled with spectators.

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The sun!

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Wow, just wow.

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The torii gate at the peak entrance.  I was spent, yo.

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My friend loves taking photos.

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Walking around the crater of Mt. Fuji.  The last explosion was some 300+ years ago.

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Come here I’m about to take you higher

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Group photie by the crater!

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And a solo.

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Spectators in awe because they made it.

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While waiting for the others to rejoin us at 5th station.

Thank you to my friend, Aizhana, for the wonderful photos!  More hikes to come!

And since I love making videos, here’s one for the entire trip.  Mountains, friends, and roller coasters!

 

Thanks!  If you have any comments or questions, just post them below.

Being Part Of The Gion Matsuri

This is the story of how I became part of the Gion Matsuri (祇園祭).  Not just a spectator this time, but an actual participant!  Yes! A Filipino in the Gion Matsuri! #proudfilipino right here.  Hopefully, many of you could experience what it feels like to be part of this in the future!

Matsuri (祭) means”festival” in English.  So the Gion Matsuri is a festival which happens in one of Kyoto’s oldest districts, Gion.  There are a string of events running from July 10 to July 24 every year.  However, the three main events usually occur on the three Sundays during the above dates.

The first one is dubbed the Omukae Chochin (July 10; welcoming lanterns) which serves as the beginning of the festival and was the one I joined.  The second one is the Yamaboko Junko (July 17; Grand Parade) and Hanagasa Junko (July 24; umbrella parade).

The opportunity was out of sheer luck since the school was inviting students for part-time jobs as parade volunteers.  One of my friends came to me and invited me to join.  Everything was to be provided for (bento and yukata) and it was very hard to resist the chance to be part of one of Japan’s greatest festivals.  At first, we were skeptic of being accepted due to language barriers but my friend gave me some pre-interview training in Japanese in order to ensure that I could be able to answer questions.  All those Japanese classes are finally showing their value!  What’s more interesting is that there are no rules (that we know of) against foreigners volunteering for the festival.  Although knowing Japan, there must be some kind of limit to it.  Nonetheless, we were happy campers and waited anxiously for July 10 to come.

The process was quite easy: just show up in Yasaka Shrine on the arranged time and date and just present your ID.  The yukata (summer kimono) will be handed to you.  They were quite strict with undergarments though and everything had to be white.  After dressing up, we were given a nice unagi bento which should prep us for the work ahead.

At exactly 3pm, an old guy called out our numbers and arranged us in formation.  The numbers were assigned on (what we believe) the basis of companies who sponsored the event.  We were quite nervous as we patiently waited for the lanterns that were going to be assigned to us.  We ended up not carrying any.  Little did we know that we had to pull some sort of musical lantern cart later on!  After all the arrangements were finished, it was time to commence the parade.

*I would have to give full credits to my friends Yan, Eki, and Xiaotong for taking all these awesome pictures for us.  Thanks guys!

Here is a photo showing us pulling the cart!  We were numbers 4, 11, 12, and 13 which meant that we were almost in front of the entire parade.  And yes, the cart was very heavy but the group effort made it fun and enjoyable.

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There were various chants from the back which complemented the drum beating that occurred in front.  The hardest job was being the one who pulled from the center because you had to steer and make sure that it did not stop.  We all took turns for this task.  Our arms were trembling after the parade.

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It was very nice to experience being part of this traditional Japanese festival.  We could really feel that we were Japanese.  Even the Japanese friends we made during the parade shared similar feelings as well.  The level of organization, discipline, and commitment were truly Japan.  Our fellow Japanese participants were surprised that we were foreigners and were happy to chat with us along the way.

Here, we just passed OiOi Kyoto and into the busy Shijo-Kawaramachi intersection.  The center of Kyoto was looking at us!

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Our friends zoomed in!  China, Indonesia, Philippines, and Taiwan represent!

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The intermission was at the Kyoto Municipal Hall where politicians gave speeches.  Wonderful performances by kids were in display as well.  Sadly, we did not have a lot of pictures of them.  More men in yukata pictures then!  The girls love it!

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Some of the lanterns that were part of the parade.  Since these guys were at the front, their lanterns said omukae which translates into “welcoming” in English.

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After the intermission, it was time to head back to Yasaka Shrine.  Obligatory group photo, of course!  Thank you guys for coming!  楽しかった!

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Kyoto: Daimonjiyama

My friends and I have started a travel group called DIY Travel Japan. We aim to share our DIY travel experiences in Japan to the world through blogging and vlogging.

Since I am co-contributing to the group, I’ll be sharing our content here in my blog as well.

If you have been following my blog, you know that I have been to Kyoto’s Daimonjiyama many times. Weekly, in fact.

This however is different because it shows group dynamics.  Real people, real events, and real interactions with Japan.

For the complete details on how to DIY this trip, check out Conquering Kyoto’s Mountains.

Please watch in HD and don’t forget to like our Facebook Page and subscribe to our Youtube channel for more.:)

Thank you and enjoy!

Karainya: The Best Curry in Kyoto

Indian food is amazing.  Of all the places in the world, I never thought I’d find amazing Indian food here in Japan.

Karainya is one of the best Indian restaurants near my school.  It is located on Imadegawa dori just before Horikawa dori.  You cannot miss it as it is situated on a busy intersection.  Going in, you will see a happy Indian chap who amazingly speaks 3 languages.  I’ve heard him speak English, Japanese, and Chinese.  I bet he knows Indian, too!

The menu is simple.  There are curry sets (beef, chicken, lamb) and a Tantanmen which is kind of like Japan’s version of the Sichuan dish, Dan Dan noodles.  The curry sets are priced from 750 yen to about 1100 yen for the full set (3 types of curry), if I remember things right.  You can even add 100 yen and get unlimited Naan bread which is awesome!

The chef makes everything by himself so it take about 15-20 minutes of waiting.  Even the Naan!  It is super worth the wait!  I’m no food expert but at least I know a good curry when I smell it.  It smells very strong and spicy (which I like).  It’s served on a canteen-like metal plate with the biggest Naan bread I have ever seen.  It’s bigger than your head.  The accompanying salad and soup were okay.  It’s the curry (I got beef and lamb) and Naan bread that makes the experience enjoyable.

Just look at that plate!  Easily one of the best 750-yen meals I’ve had in Kyoto.

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Otsu-karesamadesu: The Japanese Riviera

This post has been written reluctantly due to all the video footage I lost.  For this one, we would have to stick to good, old-fashioned photos.  No time lapses this week, sorry. 

I am not a Japanese language expert but Otsukaresamadesu (お疲れ様です) roughly translates into “Great work!” in English.  If I’m wrong, please let me know.

One of the great privileges in this world is living next to the beach.  Or by a lake.  Or near any pleasing body of water.  Most of the expensive properties around the world can be found along the French Riviera or Lake Como.  And I totally agree with how these are being valued.  How do you put a price on the view you get every day of the week?  Some might even argue that it’s priceless.  I guess that makes it a bargain, then? 

A couple of my Japanese friends asked us what we wanted to do:  go to the world-renowned port-city of Kobe or visit the virtually unknown city of Otsu.  If you read the title, it is kind of obvious which one we chose.

Otsu is the capital of Shiga, which is a prefecture of Japan.  I was surprised to discover a lot of interesting facts about Otsu.  One of them is that it is the main port in which you could access Lake Biwa, Japan’s largest lake.  I’ve been hearing about Lake Biwa from literally everyone here in Kyoto.  I also heard that there was a UNESCO world heritage site here called Enryaku-ji, but I would have to visit this some other time.

 

From Kyoto Station, it is quite a challenge to get to Otsu.  You would need to take the JR Tokaido-Sanyo line and switch trains at Zeze station.  At Zeze, transfer to the Keihan-Ishiyamasakamoto line and alight at Hamaotsu station.  That’s it you’re there!  One way costs a total of 410 yen.   The whole trip just takes around 30 minutes!

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Just look at that view!  If I didn’t say this was in Japan, you would have probably mistaken this for another country.

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The whole group striking a pose by a viewing deck.  IMG_1913

In order to best experience Otsu and Lake Biwa, my friends suggested to take the Michigan Cruise which was an old-fashioned American paddle boat. It was going to be an 80-minute ride around Lake Biwa.  The ticket costs 2,780 yen for adults and 1,390 yen for kids.  If you’re a student, just show your ID and you just need to pay 2,260 yen!  Oh yeah!  If you’re really hungry, they serve a lunch buffet on board for an additional 2,700 yen.

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I have never seen nor been on a paddle boat before so I was really excited!  Another first!IMG_1900

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My friend said this was the tallest hotel in Shiga.  Maybe also the slimmest?  I wonder what the view is like up there.IMG_1896

Another group photo after the cruise!  It was a ton of fun!  お疲れ様です

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It is so near to Kyoto!  I think this just replaced Osaka as my preferred weekend getaway.  I mean, just look at the views!  I’ll pick living near water vs. living in a city about 90% of the time.  If it was that easy.

I’d really like to go back and shoot time lapses here next time!

Kyoto Time Lapse! +GoT Ep. 3 Is Now Loading

You know that feeling when you’re so immersed into whatever you’re doing that you don’t realize a week just passed?  That was last week.  Whew.

First, nothing delights me more than speaking to my girlfriend properly.  Not just sending some random emoticons and late messages.  I’m talking about real conversations in real time.   Maybe I’ll do a piece on long-distance relationships some time in the future.

Second, as you might have suspected in this post’s title, I cannot wait for GoT to fully load.  Given Japan’s internet, it should be over before I finish writing this post.  And yes, *spoiler alert*, John Snow is alive!  Ep 2’s ending was something else and a total rebound from the always-dismal season opener.

Third, I am still dumbfounded with how the Spurs lost to the Thunder.  I know how damn good the Spurs are and losing the series in 6 games was really below expectations.  No wonder Pop’s interview was so dry.  But, it’s also exciting how the Thunder will size up against GSW.

This time lapse shows the Nishijin area of Kyoto where you the Golden Pavilion (Kinkakuji) is located.  This was shot for roughly 6 hours on a 5-second interval.

Should be a great week ahead!  Hope you have an awesome week, too!

 

Time Lapse: Kyoto Sunset

Found a way to break out of the apartment rooftop contraption.  All it took was opening one of the laundry room windows. *insert clever laugh*

Golden Week went by really quick. Too quick.  I’m still recovering from all the lost footage in Otsu but it is what it is.

Sunsets are always beautiful.  The transition from various degrees of yellow to various shades of orange is a sight to behold.  It is quite hard to use a negative word to describe a sunset.  It’s one of the main reasons I jog in the afternoon.  Lately, it’s been quite tricky to time them due to the longer daytime so I just tried to leave the camera shooting for a couple of hours while I went out for a jog.

E.M. Goldratt’s Critical Chain was a fantastic novel on business.  It was a lot about what runs in the minds of different levels of managers across different institutions.  Project management (and this does not only apply in business) is something that is dynamic.  Not unlike what most business textbooks say.

And this is what really is exciting about testing assumptions.  Assumptions make or break any mode of thinking.

Now I understand why one of my undergrad professors always nagged us about what our assumptions were.

Enjoy the sunset!

 

 

In Kyoto, We Bike, Bike, Bike!

It was only here in Kyoto that I reacquainted myself with biking.  Prior to Kyoto, I could not remember the last time I rode a bicycle.  

Biking was one of those things that you just had to do when you were a kid.  It was part of childhood (my childhood, at least).  This is why I am astonished every time I discover people my age (or older) who do not know how to ride a bike.  The feeling is almost synonymous to the feeling of not knowing how to spell your name.  Once you can spell it, you just never forget for the rest of your sane life.  Same goes for biking.

And then Formula 1 happened.  Top Gear took over my teenage life.  The Fast and The Furious made me dream.  When I got my student driving permit (2nd year HS) and finished driving school, the dream was no longer a dream.  The feeling of punching the accelerator was the greatest feeling ever.  The high school and college years were all about cars, from a hobby perspective.

All good things come to an end and I had to say goodbye to Big Berta.  

Once I got here, the first thing I had to buy was a set of wheels.  2 wheels.  A bike!  Everybody seems to bike here in Kyoto.  In other parts of Japan, people bike but not as much as they do here.

My only non-negotiable was that my bike had to have gears.  I’m a speed freak and a fixed-gear bike would not be able to deliver that.  Having a bike with gears isn’t only for speed.  It also comes in handy when tackling hills and crested roads.  So whenever you find yourself in Japan or in any foreign city where a bike is necessary, do yourself a favor and get one with gears.  You will never regret paying the extra bucks.  It doesn’t have to be a 21-speed monster, 3-6 gears should be enough for daily commute.

I tried to compile all my biking videos so far into one video.  Maybe I could turn this into another set on its own.

Enjoy!

HD!

 

Time Lapse: Murakami and Kamogawa

My love for reading fiction is negatively correlated with my age.  When I was a kid, I would remember bringing home shortened versions of classic novels from the bookstore.  I had a ton of them.  You name it and I’ve probably read it.

As I grew up, things became very different.  Fiction became literally fiction to me.  It was too out there.  Too perfect.  It’s just one of those moments where you don’t know how it happened.

But then now, reality isn’t really that different from fiction.  There are only moments.  And most of my cherished moments in Kyoto are spent with nature.

Haruki Murakami is the only Japanese writer I know, which makes him my favorite by default.  I plant to read all his books while I’m here.  I didn’t even know he was born in Kyoto until I searched him on Google.  Anyway, I’ve just finished reading Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman about a couple of hours ago.  It was a fascinating collection of moments.  There’s still some beautiful weirdness in there, if you know what I mean.

Here’s this week’s time lapse.  I tried something new today by splitting one sequence into different vibes.

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